Husband and wife in boxing gloves

Dude Skill #3: FIGHT – Part 2


Couples don’t often know how to do conflict well for a multitude of reasons. And our upbringing and family-of-origin is one of the most critical culprits. Today’s posting will focus on how our family affects how we fight.

Your Family Affects How You Fight

Some Families Ignore Conflict and Pretend It isn’t There

My friend Kyle grew in a family like that. He and I shared two groups of friends. That’s how we met. He was the link between two tribes. Most of my friends in high school shared the affinity for fighting, except Kyle. He backed down from arguments and disappeared as soon as the first punch was thrown. For a year or so, I was at his house a few times a week. What I saw in Kyle, I also observed in his family. He confided that his parents were having money problems. I noticed the phone was always ringing when I was in his house. Those were creditors calling. I asked him if his parents ever discussed the problems with each other or with him and his sisters. He said, “No! We really don’t talk about stuff like that.” Maybe your family approached conflict like Kyle’s.

Some Families Have Fights Only When The Front Line Is At The Front Door

That is, they engage conflict only when it’s unavoidable. One of my college roommates and I both liked sports, and both of us were getting serious about girlfriends. We had tons in common and lots to talk about. But we didn’t talk about roomie issues. I was surprised that we hadn’t had any fights as the semester neared its conclusion. Then one day I came back to the room after psychology class (the irony is thick), and he opened up a can on me. He was yelling while referencing a five-page treatise he had penned that outlined my roommate sins. He accosted me for a solid hour about leaving the faucet on, not replacing the cap on the toothpaste, and leaving expired milk in the refrigerator. He had been storing up all his bitterness, and he unloaded it when he couldn’t take it anymore. When we both calmed down, I apologized for being a slob, and he confessed that he didn’t know how to do conflict any other way. When I asked why, he said, “That’s the way it was done in my family.”

Some Families Make Every Little Conflict Into An Epic Battle

I got to know Marci in a semester-long class. The writing class included group projects about which we gave one another feedback. I noticed that Marci had difficulty with any feedback regarding her work. She took suggestions as attacks and turned critiques into opportunities to personally attack those who made amendments to her work. One day I was in the cafeteria line with her, and I asked her why she made every proverbial molehill into a mountain. She said, “I was taught not to show weakness and to fight anyone who pointed it out.”

An awareness of how your family of origin dealt with conflict is invaluable if you are going to handle conflict well with your spouse. Whether you adopted your family’s way or rebelled against it, knowledge is power in the fight to fight well.


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